Tennessee Sun

Ch. 1

The wide open road was my happy place just me and my dog out to conquer the world. It’s the only place that makes me feel at ease since my girlfriend of five years passed away. I had to get away after her passing about a year ago. She fought cancer for two long years before it took her life.

We have a beautiful three-year old daughter together, Sunni. She has gorgeous, sandy blond hair, honey brown eyes and four legs. The smartest mutt you will ever meet in your life.

Casey and I found Sunni on a trip to north Kentucky a few years back. I saw her huddled by an ice machine not far from the trash cans. She couldn’t have been more than a month old. She looked like a little bear begging to be loved. I carried the sweet and stinky little canine back to the truck completely incognito.

Casey would be back from the bathroom soon. I quickly dusted the pup off and laid her in my lap. Then I tied my lanyard from my keys around her neck to form a bow. I saw Casey coming. With wide eyes and a guilty face I instructed the pup to calm down; really it was me who needed to chill out. I’d asked Casey many times in the past to get a dog and it was always a no. We didn’t have a yard big enough.

When she opened the truck door I held Sunni up by my face. My big blue eyes were filled with excitement and I gave Casey the look of ‘Can we? Oh, please please can we?!’

“What the hell Rayn? Where did you get that dog?” She said with laughter in her voice.

“Well, you see honey… I was throwing away trash and there she was sad and all alone. She needed me!” I over exaggerated with a frown.

I continued to bribe my lady. “Look at these eyes, Baby. She’s beautiful and her coat is so soft.”

“How do you know she doesn’t belong at one the houses around here?” Casey protested.

I began to get a little heated. She wasn’t even mine but I didn’t want this puppy to be anyone else’s.

“You need to go ask whose puppy this is.” She demanded.

It was time to negotiate with my beautiful foe on this matter. I straightened in my seat, lowered my eyebrows and said “I’m going to take her and ask who she belongs to. If no one claims her, she’s ours Casey Lynn.” She knew I was serious when I used her middle name.

Considering this intense deal Casey huffed and brushed her dark red hair from her brow. She shifted her weight and settled in position with her right hand on her hip. She was so damn adorable when she was feisty.

“Fine whatever Rayn.” Casey huffed in defeat.

I let out a whoop of excitement and with Casey in tow I hurried to the houses nearby. None of the people we talked to recognized the dog. After speaking with the store clerk we learned that someone dumped four puppies a few days ago.  The sweet girl I was holding was the only one left.

Casey laughed and shook her head in defeat. I shook with excitement. Me and Sun shook our tails together leaving that parking lot. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

It didn’t take long for Casey to warm up to our newest family member. Less than two hours later she had Sunni in her lap claiming ‘the back seat was too scary for a little dog’.

“Sure it is, honey” I rolled my eyes and laughed. Casey adored the pup. Little did we know that little puppy would grow up to be a 195 pound Mastiff mix. She was still our baby though.

But now when I look in the passenger seat all I see is Sunni with her head hanging out of the window biting wind that flew by. Casey was gone and here we were trying to live without her.

 

Ch. 2

I set my sights on the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. I’ve heard it is the most beautiful place to visit in the fall. My sister booked me and Sun a weeks’ vacation at a dude ranch in the mountains. The ranch wasn’t too happy about me bringing my dog but when they found out who I was they changed their mind. My last name is Deere. I had a great-great -grand-pappy that made farming a little bit easier for folks.

Yep, my name is Rayn Deere. My parents had a sense of humor didn’t they? I guess it doesn’t help that I was born on Christmas Eve. I don’t like to boast about who I am but eight out of ten people ask “As in John Deere tractors?” I just smile and nod.

Driving through the mountains for the first time blew me away! It doesn’t take much to excite this Kentucky girl. I was like a kid seeing fireworks for the first time. Wide eyed saying “oooh, ahhhh, look at that!” snapping pictures with my cell phone.

The long and winding dirt road to Double S Ranch was like a picture from a catalog. The leaves were at peak fall colors. The trees gave way to a large hay field where newly rolled hay bales were being loaded on to a trailer.

The dude ranch was breathtaking. The main lodge was a log cabin and stood two stories high. Forest green shutters and a green tin roof accented the structure. The wrap around porch was made of stripped tree bark.

To the left of the main lodge stood a very large vibrant red barn. White trim accented the windows and doors of the old barn. A natural wood round pen stood just to the left of the barn. Two stables hands and a few other people were walking around. One man tipped his cowboy hat towards me as he led a saddled horse to the round pen.

“Casey would have loved this place.” I whispered to myself.

I headed in to the main lodge to check in. I left Sun in the truck. She was having a fit with all the new sights and smells.

Rustic, old, western style decorated the big lodge. The people inside worked quietly like little worker bees. An older lady with silver stringy hair greeted me first. Her hand felt cool and a little frail. She had to have been in her mid-sixties. She had beautiful blue eyes and smile to match. Permanent wrinkles accented her friendly face. Her authentic Indian over coat itched like wool when she squeezed me for a hug. Felt like a hug from a grandmother, made me miss mine really bad.

“I’m Franny! Come on over here and let’s get you checked in shall we.” Franny said enthusiastically.

“I’m Rayn.” I said as I followed her to the large wooden desk.

“Oh, in the flesh!!” Franny exclaimed. “You’re a celebrity of sorts in these parts. At least your family name is. John Deere is like a God around here.”

I laughed and accepted her compliment. She offered to upgrade me to a suite for a week but I wasn’t looking for a luxurious vacation. I wanted a down home, back to basics; get away from it all type experience.

Franny told me I will be in bunk house four and gave me a goody bag before walking me to the truck. Walking out I spied a black Tahoe pull up and five females came scrambling out. A skinny dark haired woman looked my way and gave me a smile before joining her friends in the lodge. I stopped and smiled back nodding my head. She was really beautiful.

Bunk house Four was a rectangular wooden structure with a long covered porch. It sat near the edge of the mountain with an amazing view of the valley below. A rock fire pit sat surrounded by five rectangular hay bales. Four rocking chairs were spread out randomly on the front porch.

I walked inside to find the kitchen in front of me on the back wall. The white counter top housed the coffee maker, the sink and neatly folded dish towels. A white refrigerator stood at the end of the counter. Looking left I saw two set of bunk beds and across from those were another set of two bunk beds. Eight beds in total. Looking to the right at the far end of the building was the bathroom and living room. The living room held a large leather couch, two recliners and a TV mounted above the fireplace.

It smelled clean with a hint of leather. Western relics and signs decorated the walls. Perfect and cozy described this place.

While I was exploring the inside Sunni was exploring the outside. I retrieved my bags from the truck and we headed inside. I made the bottom right bunk my home for the next week. Sunni jumped on the bed and cuddled in like she always did. She was my little spoon. The bunk house windows were open. The cool crisp fall air crept in while the fan whirled it around. We drifted off for a nap after our long drive.

 

Ch. 3

The bunk house door swung open and hit the wall above my head with a loud bang. Several “Oh my God this place is amazing” followed in female voices. I sat up so fast I slammed my head in to the bunk rail above me. Still squinty eyed and rubbing my forehead I welcomed the new strangers.

“Hey, I’m Rayn.” I said as I stretched out my right hand to the girl closest to me.

“Oh shit! Were you sleeping…and what happen to your head?” She replied

“I guess I did fall asleep. I forgot I was in a bunk bed and when y’all came barreling in it scared the shit out of me and my head found the rail” I replied with a laugh.

“I’m so sorry and my name is Tonya.” She said accepting my hand shake.

Tonya was a cute thicker girl in her mid-thirties. She had short black hair and brown eyes. She pointed to the other four girls introducing them all by first name Jesse, Erin and Amanda. I followed Tonya around the room making eye contact and smiling at each girl. Tonya finished the introductions with Savanah. I froze in place when her hazel eyes met mine. She was the same girl who gave me a smile when she got out of the black SUV earlier. Her eyes smiled when she smiled. I managed to pull myself together and introduce myself.

I excused myself to the bathroom and to my horror I looked a hot mess. My blond bun was loose and hung to the left a little from sleeping. Loose strands of blond hair fell out of the bun.

“Oh my god, this is so not cute!” I whisper yelled to myself. Quickly I put myself back together and decided to take Sunni for a walk.

Sunni was in heaven when I came from the bathroom. She was sprawled out on the couch with two girls petting her stomach and gushing over how big and beautiful she was.

‘Must be nice…’ I thought to myself as I grabbed her leash.

“Come on Sun. Let’s go walking’ and let these girls get settled.” I said. Sunni jumped up and headed for the door. I hooked her leash and off we went.

“They seem pretty cool, don’t they think girl?” I said to Sunni. She walked along with her nose one millimeter from the ground. I found an empty open field and let her loose. She was a good dog. Always came when I called. I sat there silent for a while my thoughts raced loudly.

 

Back at the bunk house the five friends settled in.

“This place is to die for!” Jesse exclaimed.

“Yea, it is pretty nice.” Tonya replied.

“What do you think Savy? I told you it would be awesome!” Erin said

“Yes, this is very nice. Thank you all so much. I really needed to get away” Savanah said with a smile.

“What do you all think about Rayn? She seems cool!” Tonya started another conversation.

“Yes, I wonder why she’s out here all alone with her dog.” Amanda added

“She looks like a lesbo if you ask me.” Stated Jesse

“What?! No way!” Argued Erin. All the other girls started laughing in shock.

“Come on y’all…. Her hair is in a messy bun. She wears vintage cut off sleeve t-shirts, jeans and cowboy boots. Not cowgirl boots but cowboy boot. Not to mention her lifted truck. It’s obvious! I guess you guys forget that my daughter is a lesbian. I have the gay-dar” Jesse finished

The friends broke in to a laugh and mocked Jesse’s hip intelligence.

 

After Sun conducted her business I hollered for her to come and we headed back

“Knock, Knock” I said as I came through the bunkhouse door.

“Girl, you don’t have to knock this is your place as much as it is ours for the next few days.” said Tonya.

I politely smiled and found my way to the kitchen. I noticed the girls were all standing by their bunks unpacking. Tonya, Jesse, Erin and Amanda took one side. Savanah was on my side.

The sun was beginning to set and he air was turning cooler. I offered to go start a fire out front in the pit and all the girls became very excited! As I got the fire going everyone took a seat on a bale of hay surrounding the pit. I sat on the ground with my back against the hay and Sunni by my side. The group of friends brought out blankets and Erin made sure to grab the wine.

The scenery was breathtaking. Vibrant red, yellow and orange trees stretched as far as the eye could see. In the distance more mountains hid the sinking sun that left the sky streaked with deep purple, hot pink and orange clouds.

For the first half hour everyone sat in silence. Every now and then I noticed one of the girls staring at my hair and my boots. It made me kind of nervous.

I thought to myself.  “Did I look weird with my pant legs tucked in my boots? It’s just how I threw them on to take Sunni for a walk earlier.”

I swiftly got up and adjusted my pants legs before I left to go get more fire wood.

 

“I think you’re right, Jess.” Amanda whispered when Rayn was out of sight.

The other girls still weren’t convinced but giggled.

 

“So, Rayn, Where are you from?” Tonya asked when I got back.

“I’m originally from central Kentucky but now I live in a small town in north Kentucky. Where are you guys from?” I asked.

Amanda said they were all from central Tennessee and were here on a getaway retreat. They planned to stay for a few nights. The wine began to loosen everyone up and we all started to talk more. Ages were established as well as our job. I listened to them gripe for over an hour about their jobs. Apparently they all worked in law enforcement at different agencies. Eventually I found my way in to the conversation.

I noticed the only one that wouldn’t make eye contact with me was Savanah. Her face appeared sad and serious. I watched as the firelight danced in her hazel eyes while she was lost in her thoughts. Her long, dark, auburn hair was straight and hung over her right shoulder. Every now and then a long strand of bangs would slide across her face and she’d brush it back. Her cheery disposition from earlier seemed to diminish. Despite what might be wrong with her, she looked stunning.

Three bottles of wine later Tonya started the wave of yawns and we all decided to turn in for the night. Everyone changed in to pajamas and was ready for bed. Savanah had on loose lounge pants and a tight tank top with her hair in a messy bun. I couldn’t help but notice her cleavage and the size of her chest when she climbed in her bunk beside mine. They looked pretty damn perfect in that tank top.

“My god she is fuckin’ hot!” I thought to myself. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep but my mind wouldn’t shut off. I thought of Casey then came back to reality. I then thought about the new face sleeping few feet away from me and that made me nervous. I stroked Sunni’s soft fur and eventually drifted off.

 

Ch. 4

I woke up to the aroma of coffee brewing. Sitting up in my bunk I noticed a few of the girls were awake and chatting in the living room. My agenda for the day was trout fishing on the river after breakfast at the main lodge. I got ready for the day and took Sun out for her morning walk.

We found a winding dirt road trail with a strip of green grass down the middle. It was unbelievably beautiful here. I caught myself thinking about Savanah and felt terrible. Then I thought about my Casey. It had been so long since I even thought about another female. Casey was supposed to be my forever. I felt a lump form in my throat and my legs go weak. I sat on a fallen tree and cried for a long time. Sunni lay her head on my lap watching my face with worrying eyes.

Sitting there I remember my sister telling me I had to move on. Casey wouldn’t want me shutting people out like I had been. I was a people person before I lost her. Since her passing I became borderline hermit. My sister booked this trip in an attempt for me to get out. I gathered my thoughts, wiped my tears and headed back.

When I got back to the bunk house I saw Savanah sitting on the porch steps. Sunni went right to her tail wagging and tongue drooling.

“Good morning.” I said politely

“Good morning.” She said petting Sunni.

In my peripheral vision I saw her studying me.

“Are you ok? You don’t look so good” Savanah asked.

“Yes, I’m fine. Is it that obvious?” I said with a little laugh.

“Kind of.” She replied, swiping her fallen bangs from her face.

She looked cute sitting there sipping her coffee cup with her knees pulled up to her chest. Quickly I stopped myself from staring and scrambled for a thought.

“I’m good, nothing a little fishing can’t fix.” I said with a smile.

“We’re all going kayaking today.” she said with excitement in her voice.

“That sounds like fun, I’ll have to do that one day I’m here.” I said before I excused myself and went inside the bunk house.

I went on a guided fishing tour and fished my heart out. I caught fifteen trout for the whole day. My guide brought lunch for us and we enjoyed it on a secluded river bank. This would have been really romantic but my guide was a dude. Jason reminded me of my brother. He was pumped he had a tom boy for a partner today. He told me a few stories about how girly girls, fishing and boats don’t mix.

The sun had set on another great day and it was time for supper at the lodge. Franny prepared Sunni her very own special meal on the porch. I noticed my bunkys still in swim suits, semi wet, and giggling had already beaten me to the dinner table. Jesse was staring at me in disgust as I approached the table.

“What?!” I said with a worried face. I even went as far as sniffing my arm pits to make sure I didn’t stink.

“What is that all over your shirt?” She said

I was horrified as I saw everyone at the dinner table staring at me. I looked down and let out a laugh informing her it was fish blood. I offered a hug to my new friend who not so politely declined. Tonight we were all eating the trout Jason and I caught. I got to talking to the kitchen staff and forgot to change.

Franny threw me a “Double S Ranch” shirt and said I could change around the corner. I quickly and nervously slid the dirty shirt off and pulled the new blue one on. As I was adjusting my shirt I turned and locked eyes with Savanah. She quickly jerked her head and began to turn red.

‘Did she watch me change? Was she checking me out?’ I thought as I took my seat at the table. Throughout dinner I tried to make eye contact with her but again, she avoided me.

When dinner was over and, we got back to the cabin, Tonya asked for another fire. I thought that sounded great. I was happy to see I had lots of beer left over from my fishing trip.

With our bellies full we all sat around the fire sharing stories about our day. The girls sounded like they had an absolute blast. Amanda and Erin flipped their kayak and from the way Tonya described it they acted like cats getting wet for the first time. We all laughed so hard we cried.

I had a good six pack under my belt and two shots of the whiskey Tonya was passing around when Erin turned the conversation to me. She asked what I did for a living and about my family. I only said I worked in merchandising for the family business back in Kentucky and left it at that.

Amanda broke in with “So, do you have a boyfriend or husband?” Mind you, I was pretty tipsy at this point and just sat there with my head down not knowing what in the hell to say. Casey flooded my mind. I lifted my head and looked around the circle at the new faces not knowing how they would accept my reply.

“Actually I’m single…” I poked my bottom lip out debating on whether to continue or not. “My girlfriend of five years passed away about a year ago. Cancer took her.” I trailed off.

“I knew it!!” shouted Jesse jumping from her seat. I heard a few awwws and gasps from the rest of the girls but I couldn’t help but laugh.

“You knew what exactly?” I inquired.

“I’m sorry to hear about your girlfriend but I knew you were gay. I called it on the first day. My daughter is a lesbian and she taught me ‘the gay-dar’!”

I let out a loud belly laugh and chugged another beer. That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I told them a little about Casey and then I heard deep secrets of young lesbian excursions. Erin and Tonya never ventured that far out but the rest had. Amanda and Savanah experimented in college.  Jesse made out with a co-worker at a few holiday parties.

My eyes found Savanah who was blushing but blamed it on the heat from the fire. She smiled a soft smile and asked me for a beer. Her fingers touched mine as she grabbed the beer, I gave her a smile and she gave me a wink. The shocked look on my face made her snort with laughter. She seemed to come alive as more alcohol flowed in her system. She danced in her sitting position to the music Amanda was playing. She laughed, talked and became very outgoing. She had my attention that was certain.

Ch. 5

We all woke up hung over and looking a hot mess! Three pots of coffee were made along with a huge breakfast to ease the aftermath of last night. I overheard Jesse talking about their plans for shopping today. Savanah asked what my plans were and I told her I was doing some horseback riding this afternoon. She asked the girls if they minded if she stayed behind and went with me. I was as shocked as the others girls but I was excited!

“Oh my god, Holy shit. I’ve got to shower. Where is my cologne? Ahhhhhhhh!!” was all running through my head as I looked at her smiling face.

“Looks like I’m all yours today!” She winked and turned towards the bathroom.

I was so nervous I couldn’t see straight. What was she doing? Her friends were snickering and laughing. I haven’t dated in years! I think I even forgot how to flirt. Sons of Bitch, I need help.

I grabbed Sunni and set off for a walk. When I was out of ear shot of everyone I took my phone out and dialed my Sister.

“Hey girl heeeyyy!” Mallory shouted.

“Hey Sis!” I smiled at the phone.

She asked how my trip had been and my stay so far. I gave rave reviews then filled her in on the Savanah situation. She chuckled and laughed as she heard me spilling my guts in a freaked out manner. I told her this shit wasn’t funny because I really had no clue what to do. She asked me if Savanah was even a homo. I couldn’t answer that either. She said she’d made out with a couple girls before, but I honestly didn’t know. I didn’t know much of anything but I knew one thing. I was nervous as shit! She made me nervous. I hadn’t felt this way in years.

 

Back at the cabin Savanah was getting ready to go ride while Amanda sang like a school girl taunting her.

“Rayn and Savy sitting in a tree…or on horse, k-i-s-s-i-n-g…” She trailed off.

“Whatever, shut up, Amanda! It’s not even like that. Fred ruined me. This divorce has sucked out all the life in me.” Savanah yelled.

“I’ve seen the way you look at her. You do possess lesbian tendencies..” Erin butted in.

“Yea not to mention I caught you checking her out when she changed shirts at dinner that night. Her flat stomach and toned shoulders. Girl I was looking too!” Tonya added

Savanah stood there feeling cornered and threatened. She had to find an escape. She took a deep breath and said. “I love you girls but y’all have lost your minds. You all don’t want to ride horses with me and frankly I’m not all that excited about going shopping. She’s going riding today and that means I don’t have to go alone. That’s all there is to it. Y’all have a good day now!” Savanah said confidently. She heard several “Uh-Huhs” behind her as she left the cabin.

Savanah spied Rayn in the distance playing fetch with Sunni. ‘So what if I find her attractive, girls think other girls are attractive all the time.’ She thought to herself.

 

I headed back to the cabin with a clearer mind after talking to my sister. Mallory told me to stop thinking so much, just go with the flow and most of all relax. Sunni took off in a dead sprint for Savanah when she heard he call her name. I looked up and saw her standing there smiling my way. She wore a black vintage ball cap with wisps’ of hair falling from it. The majority of her hair was in a pony tail. She wore a tight black tank top, and even tighter white wash semi-ripped jeans and boots.

‘My lawd, she looks amazing!!’ I thought. ‘Can she be any cuter?’ When I got closer to her I noticed she had on purple eye shadow and eye liner that made her hazel eyes pop.

Since I was paying so much attention to her eyes I failed to see the firewood in front of my feet and down I went! I tried to catch myself but my feet just weren’t fast enough. Jumping up real fast I tried to play the incident off. Savanah was desperately trying to hold back laughter with her hands over her mouth but I didn’t help. She walked over to me barely able to walk she was laughing so hard. Horrified, I joined in her laughter to ease the pain of my ego. She walked behind me and lightly brushed the dirt and hay off my back. ‘Way to go dumbass!’ I thought to myself.

“Come on Stumbalina, let’s go ride some horses.” Savanah said still laughing.

The horse barn smelled of wood, leather, and hay. Other campers at the ranch had already picked their horse and began to saddle them. I picked a beautiful white and deep auburn colored paint gelding and Savanah picked a beautiful deep brown retired pleasure mare. I was impressed with her knowledge of tack and how quickly she saddled Bonnie, her horse. Axle, my horse, didn’t seem to be excited to be going on this outing. Savanah laughed as I tried to baby talk the beast in to calming down as I climbed on the saddle.

Me, Savanah, three other riders and the instructor began our six mile ride behind that barn on a trail that snaked through the trees. The trees were vibrant reds and yellows. Occasionally a few would float to the ground when the wind blew. Leaves crunched under the horse’s hooves as we carried on. Savanah and I rode side by side talking about her profession and her two kids. She had two daughters, thirteen and fifteen years old. She talked about them with such love in her heart.

I asked if she had a husband and she immediately slumped in her saddle. I caught the vibe and felt bad for asking.

“It’s just a touchy subject.” She said.

“Understandable, we don’t have to go there.” I replied.

“We were married for seventeen years. He stole seventeen years from me while giving me the most beautiful daughters a Mother could ask for. He cheated on me multiple times and multiple times I forgave him until I had enough. I gathered my girls and left. I’ve tried finding me again but it hasn’t  been easy. Tonya planned this trip on my account. I was sinking to a pretty low place.” She explained.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I believed in him too much. I didn’t realize that somewhere along the way I lost myself.”

I listened intently to what she was going through. I felt bad for her. When I was fifteen my father decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and divorced my mother. She sacrificed her whole life for my father and her children. It devastated her and I can see some of the same emotions in Savanah. Made me want to punch her ex right in the fucking face.

“Enough about that though. I’m here on this beautiful trail ride and  I don’t want to think about that right now. I’m having too much fun.” She said attempting a smile.

The ride through the mountains was absolutely breathtaking. Falls colors as far as the eye could see. We rode for three miles on horseback until we reached a spacious clearing at the edge of Scouts Bluff. We ate our lunches in a small circle then spent a few minutes on our feet exploring the immediate area.

I was so nervous walking side by side with Savannah. She asked me about Casey and I told her about us. We were approaching the mountains edge when all of a sudden Savannah jolted forward and screamed. I reached out and grabbed her waist pulling her back. We stood there frozen both breathing hard for a few moments. After our brains did its quick check list and confirmed we were ok, I let her go.

“Holy shit, that was close!” She finally said.

“That scared the shit out of me!” I was still breathing hard.

“Nice reflexes.” She said with a smile.

“My super-powers come in handy sometimes.” I said raising my right eyebrow flashing a smile. “Let’s get back to group shall we.”

Without thinking I put out my right arm like a butler and waited for her to accept the gesture. She smiled and for the first time her skin touched mine. When my mind actually caught up with what was happening, I had a mini freak out and moved my arm. She didn’t say anything if she did notice but we weren’t far from the horses.

We chased the sun as we headed back to the ranch. Sunset at Cedar Creek Falls was breath taking. Savannah couldn’t contain her laughter as I couldn’t contain my ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ looking at the beautiful scenery. I’m literally like a kid in a candy store out here. I cannot describe how content I was at that very moment.

When we arrived at the ranch we washed and brushed Bonnie and Axel. They gave us a great ride today. It was time to meet everyone at the main lodge for dinner.

 

 

Ch. 6

At dinner I overheard Franny talking about a meteor shower tonight. I love watching the stars and I knew the perfect place. I remembered I brought my air mattress that was still in the truck.

When I got to the cabin I sat with Sunni Marie as she inhaled her delicious BBQ dinner of leftovers. All of the other girls filed in the cabin to get ready for their scary movie night. I grabbed my pillows and a blanket and headed to the truck.

Approximately fifty yards from the cabin was a nice little clearing with no lights what so ever. The skies were clear of any clouds. I blew up my mattress then cuddled with my over grown lap dog before the show started.

After being out there for about an hour I had to use the restroom. I spotted the back window of the cabin and had a terrible yet fantastic idea. When I approached the window I spied the girls curled up on the couch and recliners. They were watching the original Kentucky Chainsaw Massacre.

“Perfect!” I whispered to myself giddy with excitement. I tapped the kitchen window and immediately hid. A few minutes later I peeked through again. I guess they didn’t hear it. I walked to the side of the cabin that the TV was on. With a large stick I hit the wall and slide the stick down the side of the structure. I heard a loud scream and knew they heard it that time.

I rushed back to the back of the building and peeked in the kitchen window. The movie was paused and the girls were wide eyed staring at one another. I rushed to my truck and grabbed my rain slicker and gloves. Trying not to fall I ran back to the kitchen window.

With a loud “Bang” I slammed my gloved hand on the window. That definitely got their attention. While running around to the front door I heard all of the girls screaming and several ‘oh my gods’.

I walked with the grace of a lion hunting its prey. The cabin door inched open. I stopped and waited. The door inched open a little more. I saw Tonya’s head begin to emerge and that’s when I pounced.

From the deepest parts of my lungs I yelled and lunged towards the girls. I slammed my hand on the cabin door swinging it open. I buckled over with laughter as I watched the five friends trying to escape. They all looked like screaming spider monkeys. I quickly removed the hood of my slicker and revealed myself. Boy where they mad!

“Are you fucking serious right now Rayn?!” Tonya shouted.

“You’re an asshole!” Amanda spat my way. All the while I’m trying to contain my laughter.

“That wasn’t funny Rayn!” Savanah said punching me in the arm.

“Oh come on. You guys were such an easy target!” I said as we all caught our breath.

“You ain’t right for that. What are you doing out there anyways?” Savanah inquired.

“Watching the meteor shower. I had to use the bathroom so I came back up here.”

“I see, well come on girls lets finish this movie. Hopefully we don’t get interrupted again!” Savanah shot a grin my way.

I conducted my business and headed back outside. Jesse flipped me the bird on the way out. “Can’t be mad at me forever!” I said as I laughed and blew a kiss their way.

The meteor shower was amazing. At least two a minute shot across the sky. Sunni perked her head up and let out a low ‘gruff’. I sat up and turned to see Savanah coming our way.

“What are you still doing up? It’s like two o’clock in the morning.” I said

“Peak time to watch meteor a shower.” She replied.

“Where are the other girls?” I asked.

“They all fell asleep a little while ago. I can’t sleep, figured I’d ask to join you”

“Sure! Come on over hop on the mattress.” I said trying to push Sunni off.

She gruffed followed by low groan but eventually vacated the bed.

“So is this how you get the ladies huh? Lay a blanket in the middle of nowhere under a star lit sky?” She said taking her spot to the left of me.

I let out a laugh and shook my head. “oop! Ya got me!” I said with a smile.

“Actually if I was trying to ‘Woo’ a lady and make a move on her this place would look like a hallmark truck flipped over on it. It would look ten times more romantic than this nasty old air mattress in an open field.” I said trying to sound smooth as I scooted over.

“Good to know.” She giggled.

We laid there for a long while not touching and barely talking. Sometimes I’d get excited when I saw a huge star streak across the sky and nudge her. The most we’ve had for conversation was “There’s one…. There’s one.”

After a few more minutes of silence Savanah spoke up “Soooo say you were trying to make a move on a girl in this setting what would you do?” she asked.

Shocked and completely caught off guard I scrambled my brain for some words. “What do you mean exactly?” I managed to spit out.

“Like say you were here with a girl you liked but hadn’t kissed her yet. What would you do to try and get a kiss?” This time she looked at me straight faced dead in the eye.

‘Holy fuck, holy fuck, holy fuck’ ran through my brain several times before I found my cool and answered her question.

I rolled on to my left side rested my head on my hand and said “Well, it really depends on her body language and if I can tell whether or not she’s in to me. For instance, if while we are laying here her arm touches mine or she rests her leg on mine. That indicates a little interest.”

“Like this?” She said as she scooted closer to me.

“Are you serious right now?” I asked with a smile. “I mean, I can’t tell all my secrets…”

She nodded and smiled.

I took a deep breath. “OK, well.. At this point I’d attempt eye contact to try and figure out what’s going on beyond those beautiful eyes.” As I lay there looking in her eyes, they shifted. They went from playful, flirty, eyebrows up to a soft and intense stare that gave me butterflies. At that moment I knew.

I reached my right hand up and made contact with her left jaw line keeping her eyes in mine. She closed her eyes as I guided her lips towards mine. I kissed her twice before I pulled away.

I sat there nervous attempting a smile. I was actually freaking the fuck out. It had been so long since I felt another’s lips. She laid there studying my eyes. Thank god there was a smile on her face.

I began to say something funny to try and break the ice but before I knew it my face was in her hands and her lips were locked on mine. She turned towards me lying on her left side. I shifted my body more towards hers. Her lips were soft and full. Our mouths were completely in sync with one another. As I lay there making out with Savanah, I got lost. I got lost in her lips, lost in her body movements. I felt her body exhale deeply next to mine and it sent my stomach plummeting. I rested my right hand on her left hip and felt her skin just above her cotton PJ’s. Gently, I slid my right hand underneath her shirt and across her warm lower back. This caused her hips to roll forward and make contact with mine.

She ran her hand up my arm, over my shoulder and pulled me closer to her. Goosebumps took over my body. I took her bottom lip between mine and kissed her a little harder barely biting her bottom lip. This time when she exhaled a soft moan escaped her mouth.

I hadn’t had a make-out session in so long. This felt amazing. I touched her cheek softly trying to calm myself down. I gave her a few soft kisses ending the session with a smile. She looked at me with soft eyes and a huge smile followed by a giggle.

“Well that was fun.” I said laughing as I rolled on my back. She laughed and nodded as she snuggled up to me laying her head on my chest. We laid there in silence for a few moments basking in what just went down between us. Stars were steady streaking across the sky.

The high I was riding vanished when she turned her head to look at me and said “I don’t want to leave tomorrow.” I know she felt my chest deflate but I wasn’t going to let this moment we were currently in go away. I rolled over and buried my head in her neck, I kissed it and whispered “but we have tonight.”

The next morning we woke up to breakfast cooking and coffee brewing. Savanah and I were the last two to wake up. We crept back in our bunks about two hours ago. I was OK with being woke up though. More time I got to spend with her. She was leaving in a few hours and I was dreading it.

During breakfast she would look at me with those seductive eyes and it took all I had to contain myself. She knew what she was doing, she’d burst out laughing every time I cocked my eyebrow as if to say ‘you better quit that shit.’

The other girls could tell there was something between us but no one said anything. The smile she gave me never went away. We all took a walk around the Ranch and ended up at a pond surrounded by beautiful fall trees. Sunni was inspecting the area.

“So, what time are y’all heading back to day?” I asked Tonya.

“Whenever we get back to the bunk house we’re going to start packing up.” She said.

I looked at Savanah who looked at me with the same look in her eye that I had, sadness.

“How long are you staying here Ms…. What is your last name anyways?” Amanda asked with a curious face.

I always dreaded this question.

“It’s Deere… and I’m staying two more nights.” I looked at the ground waiting to hear laughter.

“You gotta be shitting me. Rayn Deere, as in Reindeer, Christmas, North Pole kind of shit?” Amanda broke out in laughter.

“Yes ma’am” I said smiling. “My parents were hippies.”

“That is actually a pretty cool name. How do you spell it?”

“D-e-e-r-e.”

“Shut the front door, like the tractor?” Savanah asked.

“Yea, ancestor on my Father’s side was a smart man. We’re still in the family business.”

“That is crazy! But really, really cool!” Tonya piped in. We all sat and talked for a few more minutes before they absolutely had to go.

“Well we gotta get back to reality, Y’all about ready to leave?” Amanda asked

As the other girls started to walk back Savanah told them she’d meet them there in a minute. We stood there looking at the pond for a few minutes while they got out of sight.

“It really sucks that you are leaving.” I told her.

“I know, I’m not ready go either.” She said.

She hugged me tight and I held her for a few moments.

“Will I ever see you again?” I asked

She took my phone from my pocket and put her information in it.

“You know where to find me.” She said shaking the phone at me.

I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever see her again but I was going try like hell.

 

Ch. 7

          The girls left around four o’clock in the afternoon. Sunni and I headed to the main cabin for dinner. After that we decided evening fishing would hit the spot. I grabbed my tackle box and we headed out. The pond was tucked behind the trees in an open clearing. A large fallen tree trunk made a perfect seat. The pond was about the size of a baseball field. Dragonflies and other little flying bugs skimmed the top of the water. The sun was setting and I’d never felt more content.

Waiting for the fish to bite I watched fireflies dance in the wood line across the pond. Sunni lay by myside after she explored the immediate area. I caught a few bass and catfish. The evening overall was very relaxing.

The bunk was quiet and empty that night.  It was a cool fifty-three degrees, perfect night to open up the windows. I moved the couch and grabbed two of the twin bunk mattresses. I put them in the living room area in front of the fireplace. “Perfect!” I said to myself. Sunni and I lay there basking in the warm of the fire in the fireplace with the cold breeze gently blowing in. I lay there trying to sleep but when I closed my eyes I saw Savanah’s eyes and her smile. I remembered how soft her hands and skin were. Her eyes were got me the most though. It drove me crazy when she looked me in the eye, smiled and slightly tilted her head.

I couldn’t resist anymore. I grabbed my phone and sent her a text.

‘Hey, It’s Rayn, did you ladies make it home safe?’

‘Yes, thanks for checking.’

‘Anytime, good night Savanah.’

‘I’m glad you sent a message. Night Rayn’

I woke up the next morning to breakfast in the bunk courtesy of Franny. She even brought Sunni her own food. She talked with me over breakfast and told me stories about the property. Her great-great-grandfather settled here and claimed the land. It has stayed in the family ever sense. Franny was born and raised twenty acres to the east. She had stories for hours, and I listened to every one of them. I love history and nostalgia.

We moved from the kitchen table to the front porch drinking coffee and telling stories back and forth. She was a widowed mother of one son who lived in New York. He never came home to visit. I felt bad for Franny and made a promise to myself right then and there I’d come back at least once a  year to get away and visit Fran.

Tonight was my last night at the Dude Ranch. I really didn’t want to go but my week was up. I sat on the porch with a cold glass of sweet tea and talked myself in to having a fire.

I sat there for a long time watching the fire burn. I thought about Casey and if she was watching and how pissed she would be. I smiled to myself and remembering how feisty she would get when another girl seemed interested in me. I also remembered what my sister said. ‘You’ve got to live your life for you. Knowing Casey and her personality she wouldn’t be upset Sister. She would be happy you are living again.”

“Is this spot taken?” I heard behind me that definitely was not Franny’s voice. I turned around and saw a sweet surprise.

“What the hell? What are you doing here?” I said stumbling over myself trying to stand up.

“The girls are at cheer camp for the weekend and I really didn’t want to be home alone.”

I could feel a smile growing on my face.

“I knew you’d be here one more night.” She finished.

“How far do you live?” I asked as I hugged her.

“Only two and a half hours southeast. Not that far at all. I was going to text you but I thought ‘nah!’ ”

“I’m glad you came. Are you thirsty, hungry or anything?”

“I am cold.” She laughed.

We sat by the fire for a little bit catching up. I asked her about their trip home and the how her girls were. Savanah lit up when she talked about her daughters. As she talked I watched the way her mouth moved. Her smile was infectious. Her eyes held mine and I couldn’t look away. I didn’t want to. She had a hold on me and she had no idea.

When the fire was about out I jumped up and said “I have an idea. Want some wine? OK, great! Stay here I’ll be right back.” I ran to the barn and grabbed a ladder. When I got back I grabbed a couple of blankets, the wine and a bucket of ice. Savanah looked at me like I was crazy as I set the ladder up against the front porch. I hurled the blankets around my neck and grabbed the bucket that held the wine. On the way up I told her she might want to go grab her jacket. She laughed but didn’t say a word, just went along with it.

On the porch’s roof I laid out two blankets to sit on and set the bucket on one corner. I hurried down the ladder back to Savanah.

“Ok, you ready?” I asked holding my hand out.

“Yesss, but I’m afraid of heights.” She replied cautiously.

“You can trust me. If you don’t want to, no biggie, but it’s a pretty nice view.”

“No, I want to. ‘YOLO’ right?” She looked at me for confirmation.

“Yep, let’s go”

When we got on the roof I moved the blanket back to the slope of the main structure. I made sure you couldn’t see down anywhere immediately close to us. I sat on the blanket beside her and the view before us almost took our breathe away. It was a chilly night in the low fifties. The moon was full and shined bright on the trees below. Our view consisted of rolling mountains and fall colors dulled by the darkness of night. It was unforgettable.

I scooted closer to her and slid my hand inside her arm then locked my fingers with hers.  She looked at me and smiled and I felt it was a good time to kiss her again, so I did. Then I kissed her on her forehead before wrapping a blanket around her. For hours we just sat and talked about life. Our families, our childhoods, mistakes we’ve made and successes we’ve earned.

“This is nice.” I said with a smile. “Some bubbly, a full moon, and a beautiful woman. I’m glad you came back.”

“Me too.”

“I still don’t know your last name though.” I realized.

She dropped her head after I asked the question. Should I not have asked?

She looked me in the eye and said “You won’t believe me.”

“Sure I will, can’t be as bad as my name.”

“It’s Clause.” She dropped her head again.

“No fucking way… as in Savanah Clause? Like Santa Clause?!” I exclaimed with eyes wide grabbing her arm.

She started laughing and nodding her head.

“What are the odds?!” I kept saying in disbelief looking at her. This was crazy.

We sat there laughing for few minutes and Savanah began to laugh harder and harder incorporating some snorts. I sat there thinking how crazy it was going to be if I ever introduced her to my family. They would have a field day.

Tears began rolling down Savanah’s face. It was really funny but not that funny. I started to become skeptical.

“Is that really your name?” I’d stopped laughing at this point.

Trying to contain herself she grabbed my hand and said “No, It’s Hudson but that would have been hilarious! Rayn Deere and Savanah Clause!” Again her laughter increased.

“You’re an asshole!” I said taking my hand from her. “That’s fucked up!”

She was still laughing hysterically but caught that I was a little annoyed when I scooted away from her.

“Oh come on, you know that was funny!” catching her breath from laughing. I didn’t say anything, just looked at her and rolled my eyes.

“Come here Rudolph! Don’t be mad at me.” She scooted closer grabbing my arm and putting it around her.

“I’m sorry, I was kidding. I’m really not that witty so I’m very proud of myself for coming up with that!” she giggled.

I started to laugh a little, I mean it really was kind of funny.

“You’re such an ass” I said before kissing her hand.

Savanah started to shiver so I scooted around behind her, straddled her back wrapping my arms around her waist. I felt her tense up and wondered if this was too much cuddle.

“Is this ok? I’m sorry.” I said loosening my hold.

“It’s fine… I mean it’s just….I don’t know, It’s been a while since I’ve been this intimate with someone, especially a girl.”

I attempted to move but she put her hands on my legs not letting me get up.

“This is kind of new to me too.” I said “It’s been over a year since I’ve had any kind of physical interaction with a girl other than cuddling my Sunni.” She laughed and relaxed resting the back of her head on my chest as I held her tighter from behind.

After a while, the moon disappeared and gave way to clouds then cold rain drops fell on us. Quickly we hopped up and threw the blankets and bucket down. Savanah descended first and hurried to the porch. I followed shortly after. Drenched and freezing Savanah took off her coat after she got inside the bunkhouse. I was mesmerized as I watched the wet coat sleeve slide down her tan skin. It was like slow motion. Her long hair was wet and clung to her upper arm. I went weak in the knees as a water drop slid down her neck.

She looked up at me and said “What?” I didn’t answer her. I walked over to her and pushed her against the inside of the bunkhouse door. She gave me an intense look waiting for my next move. Instead of kissing her mouth I kissed her neck following the water drop. She rested her hands on my arms as I wrapped my arms around her waist still kissing her neck. I stopped and asked if she was OK. She nodded and kissed me hard. As we kissed she slid her hands under my shirt and took it off.

I took this as a good indicator she was completely ok with what was happening. I left all sense of doubt at the door. I removed her soaking wet shirt and lifted her up. She wrapped her legs around my waist as I headed for the make shift bed in front of the fireplace. Not once did her mouth leave mine. I laid her down then sat up on my knees.

“You sure you really want to do this?”

“I’m sure.” She whispered as she grabbed the top of my jeans pulling me on top of her.

We lay facing one another making out for a while. Things between us got really hot and heavy when the bras came off. I think she could tell I was nervous because she stopped and held my face in her hands. “Are you OK?” She asked.

“Yes, it’s just been a while.” I said laughing a little.

She said ok and grabbed my hand. An entire fleet of butterflies took over my head and my stomach as she guided it down her stomach. I was completely in the moment with her.

It was like someone began dropping small drops of gasoline in our veins the day we met. Over the last few days the drops stored and built up. She lit the spark that ignited the fire when she whispered “touch me” in my ear. That sparked launched us in to a passion filled all-nighter. I felt like a teenager again.

“Hey, Rudolph.” I woke up to her hazel eyes and beautiful smile. I scooted closer and held her for a long time before we had to get up.

“I really don’t want to go” I told her when I finished loading my truck.

“I don’t either.”

We drove to the main lodge to check out with Franny. She reminded me of my promise and I reminded her I will never forget my promise to come visit.

Back at our vehicles Savannah gave Sunni a great big goodbye hug and scratch behind the ears. Sunni returned the sentiment by licking her face a few times.

My heart was sinking as I grabbed Savannah for one last hug and kiss. Again, I got lost in the moment holding her face, feeling her hands on my hips.

I wanted to turn my truck the same directions her car was going but I knew I couldn’t. I took a right and headed back to Kentucky. The whole way home I replayed one of the greatest weekends I’d ever had over and over.

 

 

 

Ch. 8

Life resumed to normal when Sunni and I returned home. I felt fresh and relaxed. I decided to go back to school and earn some college credit towards my business degree.

Savannah and I text occasionally and sometimes we’d talk on the phone. I started to notice that is was only when she was alone late at night. She wouldn’t talk when her daughters or friends were around. I understood at first, but after I asked to come visit and she said no I became very confused and kind of hurt. I tried really hard not to get attached to her but I’m a Scorpio and we are always intense individuals.

The holidays had passed and a new year began. I hadn’t heard from Savannah after I text her and said “Merry Christmas!” She never replied. I’m not the kind of person that can just drop someone from my life. I’ve never been that way. I’m still very close friends with people I went to grade school with. Hell, I still keep in touch with random people I’ve met in bars and get to know. That’s just how I am. Friends are like family to me.

Savanah was still on my mind a lot. I thought about her often and I couldn’t stand it anymore. Late March, I decided to try and contact Savannah again so I called her, two rings and straight to voice mail. Ok…. That means she pressed the decline button. I sent a text

“I’m really not a crazy person and I don’t want to bother you but what’s going on? Do you want me to stop contacting you?”

“No, I’m just busy.”

“I have a gut feeling it’s more than that. You only talk to me when no one else is around, and here lately we don’t talk at all. I’ve noticed =/”

This time I didn’t get a replay for over ten minutes.

“Look, I’m not ‘that way’. I’m trying to raise my daughters on my own. I don’t have time for any kind of relationship. We had fun. You were grieving and on the re-bound, I was heart broke and on the re-bound. Leave it at that.”

“Ok. But I want to say that you weren’t just a fling for me. If that was the case I would have never contacted you again. I felt something with you. Maybe it’s just because I’m intense but I’m pretty sure you felt it too. If you decide to change your mind, even just to be friends, my number won’t change. Sincerely, Rudolph.”

She never replied but I had closure of some sort.

 

Meanwhile in Tennessee, Savanah felt terrible. She missed Rayn. She kept re-reading the messages over and over. She’d kept every text message Rayn had sent her over the last several months. She’d thought about Rayn almost every day since she got back from the dude ranch last fall. But Rayn was in Kentucky and she was in Tennessee.

How was she just supposed to be “all of a” sudden gay, and better yet how in the hell would she explain it to her daughters? She remembered the young woman raped and beaten to death because she was a lesbian. That was just one year ago in May, 1993 in Arkadelphia, Tennessee. Four men abducted the girl; gang raped her with multiple items then beat her. Homosexuality was not tolerated where she lived. Savanah’s family was also Pentecostal through and through. She wanted to protect herself and protect Rayn. The only way to do that was letting her go.

 

Ch.9

I graduated today, May 18th, 2005, from the University of Kentucky. I had a major in business with a minor in marketing. Franny was there front and center with my family hooting and clapping.

I kept my promise to her and visited once a year. Sometimes she would come visit me in Tyler. One trip up north I decided to keep on going north and took her to the John Deere Museum in Waterloo, IA. She was like a kid in a candy store. It was very memorable for both of us. I used my status to put Franny in a suite for the first time in her life. I also gave her VIP passes for the museum. We communicated frequently.

A couple of months after graduation I earned a position in regional marketing with John Deere. I traveled near and far and met tons of people. I had a trip to Tennessee coming up and found myself thinking more and more about Savanah. I never forgot her or that amazing weekend at the dude ranch five years ago. She was weighing heavy on my heart.

I landed in Nashville and stayed at the Embassy Suites downtown. I’d been to Nashville a few times and knew where the good bars were. I didn’t have to be professional until the morning. Tonight, I was partying! I’d been to Nashville a few times and was excited to visit a few bars I’d found. After a quick nap and some time making myself presentable I set out on Broadway St.

My first stop was Bar No. 308. The food was amazing and the beer was fresh on tap. I felt sort of out of place. I guess things had changed since I was last here. My baby blue polo and jeans combo made me feel very out of place.  The bar was full of men in suits and women in dresses. It was time for me to find a better setting.

Walking south, I headed to the Red Door Saloon. The night was clear and the air was crisp. It felt amazing outside. I walked alone at a leisure pace watching the streets fill with regulars and out of towners. You could always tell who they were, two words; selfie stick. I laughed to myself as I watched an older couple try to get the perfect picture with the ‘batman’ tower. They were very grateful when I offered to take the picture for them.

“Hallelujah!” I said to myself walking in the door of Red Door. This was more like it. Young guys are girls danced and sang along with the entertainer. They were dressed a lot like me and my boots never felt more comfortable.

The very hot bartender caught my eye as she asked me what I wanted to drink. I ordered a Miller Lite that was delivered with a smile. I kept my spot at the bar making small talk with the older gentleman beside me. We talked business, tractors and music.

The bar singers were awesome. At one point Tony, the male singer was singing from the stage and Brandy, the female singer, was up on the bar singing. They put on a great show. By my seventh beer I was singing just as loud as they were. I had to pee so badly but didn’t want to interrupt my own fun.

As I trudges towards the bathroom I felt a slight tap on my shoulder.

“Rudolph?!”

With my back still turned I froze in place. Only one person had ever called me that.

“Savannah?” I turned around and there she was.

Her hair was a brighter red and those hazel eyes gleaming. I noticed she still wore purple eye shadow that made them pop.

“Oh my God, what are you doing here?!” she grabbed me for a hug.

“I’m in town for a few days on business. What are you doing here?!”

“You look great Rudolph.” She smiled hugging me again.

My drunken mind was annoyed when she didn’t answer my question about what she was doing here. Reality started to settle back in and I couldn’t help but remember the last time we communicated.

I tried to hide my annoyance by saying how great she looked then joked about how bad I had to use the restroom.

Savannah smiled and asked if I’d join her at her table after I relived myself. I was in disbelief and I was still thinking about a few years ago. My mouth ran away with my emotions.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Because as I recall last time we spoke you told me to kick rocks?”

Savannah looked at me in shock but continued to smile.

“We’ll talk about that later, I just cannot believe you are standing in front of me right now. Please come have a beer with me. I’, on the far wall underneath the ‘Bud Light’ sign.”

She touched my arm and shiver ran through me.

“I’ll be there in a minute.” I smiled and walked to the bathroom.

I had to regain my composure in the bathroom. I couldn’t believe she was here. What were the odds? I glanced in the mirror and kicked myself for having a messy bun. Oh well, it would have to do. I wiped the sweat from my face and sniffed my pits to make sure I didn’t stink. I was good to go! I took a deep breath and emerged from the bathroom, cool, calm, and collected.

I found her on the far wall sitting with another woman. I grew more nervous with every step. The drunken high I was on faded.

She spotted me weaving in and out of people and waved me over. The girl she was sitting with turned her head and smiled.

“Kathleen, this is Rayn.” Savannah said as I approached the table.

I shook the ladies hand and smiled.

“We’re here for a work conference. Kathleen is my supervisor at work.”

“Oh, but tonight I’m noooot!!” Kathleen broke in, “We’re partying tonight girl, wooooo hoooo!!”

I laughed so hard I almost fell off my stool. It was obvious Savannah was the driver tonight.

My eyes led back to Savannah who quickly turned her head as I looked at her. I tried to have a conversation with her about what she’d been up to these past few years but it was way too loud to hear her. Plus, Kathleen was getting a rowdy and belligerent. I could sense the annoyance from Savannah and could tell she was ready to leave. I told her I’d help her get Kathleen to the car.

After a two block walk partially carrying Kathleen we made it to the parking garage. Savannah loaded her in the car then let out a long sigh as she leaned on the car.

“What are you doing this weekend?” I looked at Savannah with hopeful eyes.

I wanted to ask her to meet me for lunch or dinner but I was scared that was asking too much.

“Would you be up for meeting for lunch or dinner while I’m here?”

“That would be really great; I’d love to catch up!”

“Ok, great! I’ve got business her till Friday. I’ll call you when I get to Franklin.”

“Can’t wait!”

She gave me her cell phone number before we parted ways. I cannot believe this is happening.

As she walked away I thought ‘How odd. I thought she hated me.’ As I walked back to my car I couldn’t help but smile and kick the rocks like an 8th grader.

The next three days drug by but business was business. Finally, Friday came and I was off to Franklin. I was in Tennessee during the fall season again. Still just as amazing as I remembered it. The drive from Nashville to Franklin was just what I needed to relax. I missed my Sunni though.

 

Ch.10

Franklin, TN is a historic town.It’s known to be ‘America’s favorite Main Street’. I was excited to venture around. I settled in my hotel around four o’clock in the afternoon and decided to send Savanah a text.

“Hey there, I’m in your neck of the woods.” Nervously I waited for her reply.

“Awesome! Did you enjoy the drive?”

“It was beautiful just like I remember. Do you have plans tonight?”

“Actually I do, but are you free for lunch tomorrow?”

That kind of burned a little but oh well. I half way came not getting my hopes up in case she rapidly changed her mind again.

“No, I have a meeting at one with the local marketing rep.”

“Well, what about Saturday evening for dinner?”

My heart skipped a beat.

“Yes, absolutely. Just let me know when and where.”

“It’s a date.” Popped up on my phone. Now my heart started racing a little.

These damn straight girls! You never can read them clearly. They always love to flirt but never follow through. It’s a hard life for a lesbian.

My meeting the next day went great! Shared a few marketing techniques and the area is doing great in sales. I decided to go shopping for an outfit for tonight. I passed the flower display and mild anxiety set in.

‘Should I get her roses? No! What about flowers? Regular flowers should be ok right? That is pretty harmless. Too weird? Ahhh! I don’t want to embarrass her in public. Fuck it, I’ll get her some flowers, arrive early and give them to her at her car no one will see.’ I figured out my predicament as I paced back and forth.

Savanah text and raved about the burgers and beer at McPhail’s on 7th St. we agreed to meet there at seven o’clock. I threw on my newly ironed, blue plaid, button up shirt and jeans. I finished off with my hair in a bun and soaking myself in ‘stink pretty’. I arrived at McPhail’s around six-thirty. I turned on the A/C full blast to try and prevent sweating. I looked for the red truck she said she would be in.

Six fifty-three she pulled in and parked in front of me. I was beyond nervous. ‘Dear god, please be with me. Don’t let me be a klutz!’ I opened the door and stood up. I saw her door swing open and watched her slide out of the truck. Her long dark hair was down and straightened. She wore a black petty coat and jeans combo.

I was already walking towards her when she turned around and spotted me. She looked just as beautiful as I remembered. I reminded myself to breath and continued walking. Her mouth held a huge smile and then she put out her arms. I hugged her tight around her waist and picked her up. She let out a laugh and said “It’s good to see you too!”

I directed her towards my rental car letting her know I had something for her. I reached in the car, grabbed the flowers and gave them to her. My nervous expression made her break out in laughter. She said she loved the flowers and mentioned it had been awhile since she received any. ‘Sweet!’ I thought. ‘That means she hasn’t been dating anyone. We both laughed for a few minutes. It was a good ice breaker if anything.

McPhail’s Bar and Grill was quaint and sophisticated. It sat just outside the downtown district across the street from one of the oldest gas stations in town. Dark green wall paper set the tone and Irish folk music played in the speakers. A small lamp suspended above our corner booth set a good ambiance. We slid in to the dark red booth seats across from one another. Looking out our window we could see the station lit up.

“Tennessee is so beautiful.” I started the conversation.

“Yes it is. “

It’s almost like it has magical powers. Every time I visit it’s like something takes over my body. It goes through me and completely relaxes me.

Her eyebrows lowered and she looked confused. “Every time you visit? You’ve been here since that fall?” She inquired.

“Yes, a few times. I made a promise to Franny and I kept it. I’ve come and seen her and she has come to visit me. We’ve kept in touch.” As I explained I caught on that she was a little perturbed by this news. As soon as it came though I watched her annoyances disappear.

For the next three hours we picked up where we left off. We talked about her job and her daughters. Her youngest was a senior in high school and her eldest was off to college. She spoke with such pride talking about them.

I told her about college and graduating, and my new job with John Deere. She asked about Sunni and Franny. She laughed as I told her about good ‘ole Fran at the John Deere museum. It was really great catching up with her.

Hey hazel eyes still memorized me. I couldn’t help but smile and feel nervous every time we locked eyes. The way she smiled and tilted her head was adorable. Of course, I hid how I felt about her. I was very cautious and didn’t flirt one bit. Last I knew she didn’t want any kind of public attention. I tried really hard not to act gay and I’d blame my attire on my job.

We closed down McPhail’s and I walked her to her car.

“This was nice!” She said

“Yes, it was. I’m glad you invited me.”

“What are you doing tomorrow?” She asked

Shrugging my shoulders I said “nothing.”

“Me either! You still a history buff?” she lit up with excitement.

“Is the Pope a Catholic?” I laughed.

“Perfect. Meet at that Park on North Street at three o’clock. I’ll show you some of the history here.”

We hugged again before I opened her door for her.

“See you tomorrow!” she said with a wave as she drove away.

After she left I lit up a cigarette. I wasn’t a big smoker but I needed to calm my nerves. I leaned back up against the car and laid my head back looking up at the stars.

“What are you doing Rayn?” I asked myself as I exhaled. I’d only spent a few hours with her and here she was reeling me in again without even trying.

 

Meanwhile on the way home Savanah lit a cigarette.

‘She’s still just as charming as ever. That damn goofy smile and personality. ’ Savanah thought driving away. She called Tonya and asked if she could come over. She prepped her with “I just had dinner with Rayn.” You could hear ‘WHAT?!” come from the phone ten feet away. Savannah laughed and said “Yea, and we are meeting tomorrow. Be right there.”

Tonya had a bottle of wine and two glasses ready when Savannah arrived. Savanah confided in Tonya and told her all about Rayn. She told her all about the week at the ranch and how she felt about her and also how she turned her down.

“So what the hell Savvy?” Tonya barely let her sit down

“I know, I know. It’s crazy right?!” Savanah said smiling.

“I never thought I’d see her again but then I saw her at a bar in Nashville earlier this week when me and Kathleen had that conference.  She was in town on business.”

“Whoa, so that means fate is defiantly working her magic.” Tonya looked like a school girl.

They gossiped for a little while about dinner and work drama. Savanah turned the conversation back to Rayn.

She took a long drink of wine “Why in the hell did it take five years, Tonya? She’s been here several times apparently and she never called, never text. Nothing! Why didn’t she contact me?”

“Well…. Maybe because you turned her down and basically said don’t contact me again… That’s just my guess.”

“Yea but I didn’t mean that. I was freaking out and didn’t know what to do!”

“Is she dating anyone?” Tonya asked

“I don’t know she didn’t talk about anyone. But at the same time she didn’t flirt with me at all tonight.”

“Well Savvy, She’s back in your life now. What are you going to do?” Tonya raised her eyebrows and took a drink of wine.

 

Ch. 11

I found a heads up penny on the sidewalk walking to the park. When I got to there that was the penny I threw in the fountain and made a wish on.

“What did you wish for?” Savanah said walking up behind me.

“If I tell you it won’t come true. Duh!” I said as I hugged her.

We walked up and down the main drag going in out of the little shops. The architecture was astonishing. Savanah also took me on the Franklin Walking Tour. They take you in different Mansions around town.

“That was freaking awesome!” I shouted.

Savanah laughed at me as she readied me for our next adventure. We rode the duck tours and then went to the wax museum. Best day in a long time.

We ate a simple Subway dinner before walking back to the vehicles. She pulled her tailgate down and lit a cigarette.

“What the hell? When did you start smoking?” I asked in shock

“After my youngest decided to be the world’s worst child.” She said laughing.

I smiled and walked to the car to get mine. The look on her face was classic when she saw me light a cigarette.

I laughed and said “I’m just a social smoker. Cool your jets, Turbo.”

Night had set in and people vanished from the sidewalks. The sky was clear but the city lights made it hard to see the stars. Both of us sat there for a long time in silence.

“Thanks for today. It was definitely one for the books. Want to grab lunch tomorrow before I fly out?” I touched her back.

I saw her mood shift and her shoulders tense when I touched her. ‘Fuck! Shouldn’t have done that I thought.’

“Sure.” She had a bland reaction.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

Savanah slid off the tailgate and left walking. I followed her grabbing our smokes.

“Savanah!” she kept walking. I saw her ball her fists.

“Where in the hell are you going?” I kept following her. She was walking towards the fountain at a fast pace. When she got to the spring she sat down on the bench, cussed herself then stood up again pacing the wall by the water.

“Savanah, talk to me! What is wrong with you?”

“Why didn’t you contact me? You’ve been here how many times and not one fucking word from you?”

I was completely caught off guard right now. The same anger she was feeling started to fill my veins.

“You told me to leave you alone Savanah! I tried to contact you for months after the ranch. YOU told me to ‘let it be’.”

“I didn’t think you would actually do it! I was scared! How was I supposed to tell my daughters ‘oh hey by the way Mommy is a lesbian now’?” She was flailing her arms now doing air quotes with her fingers. It’s quite adorable.

“Did you know back in ’93 a girl was raped and beat to death because she was a lesbian?” She finished.

“No, I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

“Well…. Damn it! What was I supposed to do? And then you tell me you’ve been here several times in the last five years and I didn’t hear a word from you… That killed me Rayn. You, that fall, I will never forget the time we spent together. I never stopped wanting you. I never stopped thinking about you… I couldn’t shake you then Rayn, and I can’t shake you now.”

I walked towards her as she ran towards me. I caught her when she jumped in my arms and wrapped her legs around my waist. Our lips collided and didn’t separate.

I abruptly stopped and set her down. “What about being in public?”

“It’s 2005 now no one cares that much anymore. Shut up and kiss me Rudolph…”

I did as commanded by Savanah Clause and kissed the pretty lady. We stood there for a long time making out like five years had never even passed. Her lips were soft and her hands even softer. She felt good in my arms. It took me right back to the ranch.

They next morning I woke up next to Savanah in her bed. She was wearing my t-shirt from the night before. I’m sure I looked like a creeper staring and smiling at her as she slept. She opened her eyes when I brushed the hair from her check.

“Last night when you saw me throw a penny in the fountain, you asked me what I wished for.”

Savanah nodded her head.

“It just came true.”

 

Ch. 12

Savanah’s family and friends accepted her decision and they accepted me. We celebrated our ten year anniversary at Double S Ranch where it all began. I proposed to Savanah at the Ranch with Franny’s help. I turned the clearing where we watched the stars and had our first kiss in to the spot where I proposed. Christmas lights lit the walk way to the spot. I set up a canopy and laced twinkling lights and tool from it. Hay bales decorated with pink rose petals held the wine and mason jars. A white blanket with red rose petals was where she said “Yes”.

“I told you this place would look like a Hallmark truck flipped over on it.” I said after kissing her.

Franny had an engagement gift for us at the lodge. She handed us an envelope that held the deed to the two hundred acres that was Double S Ranch. We were beyond words and gladly accepted the responsibility.

Franny passed peacefully in her sleep a few years later. We laid her to rest by my beautiful Sunni.

Savanah and I lived out the rest of our years with our families close being the coolest grandma’s in the world. Our life together was literally perfect.

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Author: Hailey Camp

A girl who's loves love and sometimes likes to write about it.

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